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Evolution of the A10 ASIP A 20Year Journey of Recovery and Advancement through Upholding Structural and Moral Integrity
The A-10 underwent a significant transformation in its Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP) following a Red Team Investigation in 2002. One of the conclusions of this investigation was that the A-10 ASIP was “broken.” This was due to several culminating factors to include: decreasing program support related to planned retirement beginning in the early 1990s, loss of personnel and data during base realignment, and an outdated and disregarded Force Structural Maintenance Plan (FSMP). The evolution of the A-10 ASIP over a 20-year period, highlighting the remarkable journey of recovery and advancement, challenges faced, and lessons learned in managing an aging airframe will be summarized. The efforts to recover the A-10 ASIP encompassed several key milestones, including the establishment of organic and contract engineer capability. Additionally, modernization of the Flight Data Recorder was accomplished through implementation of TEMs/ADR to improve the data for the Loads/Environment Spectra Survey (L/ESS) and Individual Aircraft Tracking (IAT) programs. Updates and development of damage tolerance analyses were also undertaken, including migrating from the legacy damage tolerance software to AFGROW. Furthermore, emphasis was placed on the implementation of comprehensive structural analyses, which involved finite element modeling and computational simulations. Ultimately, updates to inspection requirements and procedures were made, leading to the development of a new FSMP. Notable achievements include development and application of probabilistic fracture mechanics Risk Based Induction (RBI) for depot maintenance planning, increasing aircraft availability over 250,000 additional hrs over 10 years, and supporting the development of the digital collection data system NLign for digital data capture and inspection tracking at the point of maintenance. Development, certification, and implementation of modification and repairs to increase the certified service life (CSL) beyond 16,000 hrs, as well as material substitution and requalification of critical components were also accomplished. Current efforts include challenging the Air Force Depot culture through creating a Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) system similar to industry standards to address tooling, part shortages, and process limitations. Other advancements involved the development and implementation of the Enhanced Wing Assembly (EWA) program, transitioning from 2D to 3D manufacturing processes thus leading the AF in advancements in Digital Materiel Management and Integration while spearheading the use of the Product Lifecycle Maintenance (PLM) software Teamcenter. These extraordinary efforts have culminated in the A-10 leading the Air Force in “Owning the Technical Baseline.” This has been exemplified through the mature organic Structural Engineering capability effectively managing fleet-wide crises such as wing and fuselage cracking, windshield bow failure, and nacelle aft cowl cracking. In summary, the recovery and advancements in the A-10 ASIP over the past two decades have proven to be transformative and resulted in a robust capability surpassing the original design intent, with repairs and structural replacements demonstrating operational usage up to 20,000 hours. Further, the A-10 ASIP has continued to evolve and share lessons learned with other weapon systems including legacy aircraft, B-1, F-15, B-52; new aircraft KC-46, B-21; and external entities such as the US Forest Service, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), DOD contract MROs, etc., ensuring the technical capabilities are utilized to benefit the greater US Air Force and Aerospace Industry, at large.